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MEMORIES 

of Brierley

 

GARY HOTCHINS

Web master

Memories of St Paul's school November 2006

 

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Aged about 11 just before I left for Milefield Middle school

I was brought up on the Hillside estate. My parents Jim and Edith were amongst the first tenants in the newly built properties in 1959. We moved from the slum clearances at Joseph Street Grimethorpe although at the time I was only 2 years old and my early memories are of 5 Hillside Brierley and not Joseph Street. I have spent 12 of my later years as caretaker at Brierley Hall and am now residing on Grange Road Brierley

Aged about 6

class 2 Mrs Horton

     My first year as a pupil at St Paul's school was in the institute (now Brierley social club) which was then used as the infants class. This was September 1962.

     My first ever teacher was Mrs Webster the vicars wife who as I recall never seemed to have a lit cigarette out of her mouth. I remember the walk up the hill from the Hillside estate where I was bought up. It seemed like Mount Everest to me back then. The entrance from the outside was by the first door as you walk up the drive. It is bricked up from the inside now and the artiste changing room is there which leads onto the stage. When it was the infants classroom, the stage was where the bar area is now. I remember chairs and other useful items being stored under the stage. It was a great adventure for us infants if the teacher asked us to go under there to fetch something. I am sure that in those days the underneath of the stage went all the way to Barnsley. To the right of the stage stood a makeshift sick corner made up of chairs and wooden partitions.

The wooden floorboards have always stuck in my mind and I remember practising dancing round the maypole on them ready for the big event in the BIG SCHOOL playground on May day. However we didn't get tangled up in those gaily coloured ribbons I'll never know. My memory is a little hazy here but In the earlier years I believe the pupils from the big school  over the road came over at dinner time and the room was full of noise. If not for dinner then I am sure they came over for the Christmas party when Santa Clause (Mr Pickering the caretaker) brought us all a present. Mine was a Meccano set which I remember playing with for hours on end and for many years afterwards. I don't remember receiving any further presents after that, so perhaps it was only the infants that received one, or the school may have been short of funds in later years. I certainly remember during art and craft lessons making our own paper trimmings, hats and serviettes ready for the Christmas party where all pupils brought items in from home such as jelly, pop or buns. This was followed by games. The Christmas nativity was also an enjoyable experience to remember. I also remember in my last year at the school singing in the choir at the church Christmas carols service. The service took place in the evening and there seemed to be a magic about the church when it was lit up at night. I remember this as being one of my most precious memories of Christmas as a child.

     School was 9 till 4 with a mid morning break at 10.45am, dinner from 12 till 1.30pm and a further afternoon break at 2.45 till 3pm. During the morning break all pupils received a 1/3 pint of milk with any left over given to the well behaved pupils during the afternoon break. This seemed to be the norm during all my six years at the school. Being chosen as a milk monitor (delivering the milk to its classes in there crates), was another privilege only given to the well behaved pupils. During the morning break we could also buy morning coffee biscuits for 10 an old penny or Rich Tea for I believe 5 an old penny. A special treat was when we could afford to buy marshmallows or penny teacakes. I wonder what Jamie Oliver would have thought about our little mid morning treat. 

 

 

Photograph No: Schools 5 St Paul ís C of E School Nativity play circa 1963

This photograph was taken where the bar area is now in the social club. At the back is the stage.

Left to right standing: Gary Wilson, Ralph Bown, Karen Elvidge, ? , Alan Burdett, Pearl Jones, Julie Pickering, Jill Stringer, ? , Cindy Bates, Christine Sheridan, Christine Lomas, Peter Oates, Neil Fenton and Graham Scholey. Sitting l to r: Paul Brown, Terence Guy, Christopher Foster, Barry Wilmot, ? , Sharon Cross, Stephen Wilkinson, Christopher Hanson, June Mann, Gary Hotchins and David Reece

 

     Pupils from the infant class had  to go over the road to the big school for the morning and afternoon breaks and also after dinner for playtime and toilets. I particularly looked forward to these breaks because it gave me chance to see my big brothers Ken and Peter and my sister Brenda, and to let them see what a big boy I was now I was attending school. The toilets were another thing in the first couple of years at St Paul's, outside toilets only and absolutely freezing cold and sheer hell in the winter but more fun in the summer when the boys pastime was to see who could wee highest up the wall, and as we got older, over the wall into the playground (sorry but boys will be boys). It wasn't while around 1966/7 that they built boys and girls toilets inside each cloakroom.

     I remember in later years at St Paul's everyone started eating their dinners in their own particular class room. This may have been when the Institute was sold and a porta-cabin was placed in the big school playground to be used as the infants class. This would have been around the same time they built the inside toilets. I think that the dinners were cooked elsewhere and brought into the school. I certainly remember the dinner ladies who served us being Mrs Spaxman and Mrs Pickering, two very kind ladies. I'm sure they both felt sorry for my skinny ribbed frame as it was always second helpings for me. My favourite school dinner was fish or fish fingers, and my favourite pudding was chocolate sponge and pink or green custard. Everyone was ready when twelve o'clock approached but there was no fighting in the queue, not when Mrs Fox was about. It was stand still and quietly or go  back to your class while everyone else had been served. I remember quite clearly when dry bread was introduced to the menu. I was in class 4 (Mrs Fox) at the time and I was disgusted when she showed us how to make a mashed potato butty, it was the first time I had known this to be done but I enjoyed it so much when I tried it, that even to this day I always treat myself to one if I have mash for dinner.

     The teachers while I was a pupil were Mrs Webster (infants - later Mrs Peacock), Mrs Horton class 2, Mrs Thorpe class 3, Mrs Fox class 4 and Mr Balmforth headmaster and class 5 (later Mr Hambleton Easter 1968). The vicar was Terence Boyard Webster who escorted us once a week to the church for prayers and hymns although we did have a school assembly every morning led and accompanied on the piano by the headmaster Mr Balmforth. Mrs Horton was quite a loud teacher and while she was teaching you could hear her voice  right throughout the school while Mrs Thorpe was of a gentle nature and more a motherly type person than a teacher. Mrs Fox was known to be very strict and all pupils at the school were wary of her. Woe betide anyone who stepped out of line with Mrs Fox. She  also made the tea for the staff when they all congregated into her classroom for their break. I can still remember the little blue cups and saucers she used. It wasn't until later years when I was about 20 years old and working on the buses that I really began to understood her better. She travelled on the bus on her way home from school on an evening and talking to her as an adult brought out her real charm and my understanding of the way and why she taught the way she did. My views about her definitely changed during our adult chats and I gained a lot of respect for her. We could do with more teachers like Mrs Fox  today.

     My biggest fear when misbehaving was to be sent to stand under the clock in the corridor which was between Mrs Thorpe's and Mrs Horton's class, hoping Mr Balmforth wouldn't come out of his office and see me there. That was punishment enough for any misbehaved pupil. Just to hear his door creaking sent shivers down my spine and if I did, a prayer followed hoping that he won't be coming out of his office. If he did it was a steady glare over his glasses and a finger beckoning sign to come and see him in his office to explain why you were under the clock. If you were lucky it was a strict telling of and a don't do it again. If you were caught twice in the same week it was usually punished by bending over a chair in his office and one smart wack over the clothed backside with his cane. Of course this was a last resort and not many pupils as I remember received this punishment. I only received the cane once from Mr Balmforth and I will never forget while bending over the chair my head being about 10 inches off the coal burning fire that was in his office. Having said all that, I honestly believed that 80% of my education was received at this firm but fair little school. Milefield Middle school seemed like a holiday camp compared but that's another story.

     P E lessons were taught in the school playground in our school clothes as there was no changing facilities or showers. Our class teacher took us for this as they did for every lesson except for when in class 5  Mr Moorhouse came in on Monday afternoon to give us an art and craft lesson. Once in class 4 and 5, boys were taken out onto the grass area of the school on a Wednesday afternoon from 3.30 till 4pm to play football. Before the land was bought large enough for a football field, we played in Brierley park. I will always remember the headmaster Mr Balmforth refereeing the games in overcoat, scarf and trilby hat. He arranged an away match with Shafton school one week and how all eleven of us got into his little green Ford Anglia to take us there I will never know. I do remember the football shirts though, green with a yellow crew neck collar with strings as ties. I think they must have been last used sometime in the forties as the smell when they came out of the case was overwhelming. I remember the score at Shafton being 2-2 and a 3-3 draw was registered when Shafton played us at home the following week. These were the only two football matches played during my time at St Paul's and they  were a real treat to us all.

     Sports day was an event that was eagerly looked forward to by most pupils at the school. A programme was issued before the day which you were allowed to colour the front in before taking home to show your parents. To see your name typed in there was really exciting. On the big day, all the pupils who were taking part were split into four teams who wore coloured ribbons, red, yellow, green and blue which were worn for team identification. Each winner and runner up of a race gained points for their particular team. A prize was also given to the winner of each race, and I remember one year winning the hoop race and receiving a plastic toy telescope. I thought I had won the world. Mrs Woodward who owned the ice cream factory next door also visited on sports day and each child and member of staff received a free cornet. Yum yum.

     Another happy memory in my time at St Paul's was in the autumn when we were taken on nature rambles outside the school premises usually down the lane that led to the park. Leaves and twigs etc were brought back to identify in our nature books and to draw or paint.

     Once you had entered class 4, a weekly visit to Frickley baths was arranged which also included class 5. I will never forget the swimming instructor there, Pete I think they called him,  hosing us down with freezing cold water if we were to nervous to jump into the pool. The cork floaters that we used to learn with were not very reassuring but I did learn to swim there and remember the proud moment when I gained my Elementary certificate for swimming 1 length. I also remember the coach company who transported us there being Wallace Arnold and the driver who took us most weeks was called Len Tench whom I believe is still driving coaches today.

    At the end of the Easter term in 1968, Mr Balmforth the headmaster retired and his place was taken by Edwin Hambleton a former pupil at the school and from what I recall a brilliant cricket player. I remember one afternoon him taking us outside for a P E  lesson and on setting up a wicket, took a run and bowled at it sending the middle stump into the middle of next week.

     The 11 plus entrance examination for the  grammar school had finished the year before we left and all year 5 pupils left in July 1968 for the newly built Milefield Middle school at Grimethorpe.

     One other clear memory which has helped me on more than one occasion throughout my adult life was the sign on the wall in Mr Balmforth's class  9 x 9  =  81. Do you remember it?

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